Environment

Radio-controlled car runs on soda can rings

Spanish researchers have created the dAlh2Orean, a radio-controlled model car that creates hydrogen fuel from pop can pull rings and other waste aluminum(Photos courtesy UPC)
Spanish researchers have created the dAlh2Orean, a radio-controlled model car that creates hydrogen fuel from pop can pull rings and other waste aluminum
(Photos courtesy UPC)
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Aleix Llovet and Prof. Xavier Saluena with the dAlh2Orean
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Aleix Llovet and Prof. Xavier Saluena with the dAlh2Orean
Prof. Xavier Saluena and Aleix Llovet with the dAlh2Orean
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Prof. Xavier Saluena and Aleix Llovet with the dAlh2Orean
Spanish researchers have created the dAlh2Orean, a radio-controlled model car that creates hydrogen fuel from pop can pull rings and other waste aluminum(Photos courtesy UPC)
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Spanish researchers have created the dAlh2Orean, a radio-controlled model car that creates hydrogen fuel from pop can pull rings and other waste aluminum
(Photos courtesy UPC)

As anyone who has seen Back to the Future will remember, the movie ended with Doc Brown fueling the time-traveling DeLorean's "Mr. Fusion" reactor with household waste. Well, a student and a professor from the School of Industrial and Aeronautic Engineering at Barcelona's Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) have taken a step towards making that scenario a reality by adapting a radio-controlled model car to run on hydrogen fuel derived from waste aluminum and water. In a nod to the movie, they have named the car the dAlh2Orean ... as in, d-aluminum-water-rean.

The car was created as the final project of engineering student Aleix Llovet, whose work was supervised by Prof. Xavier Salueña. It's also part of UPC's Aluminium project, which is aimed at the development of actual passenger-carrying microcars that use recycled aluminum as fuel.

The first step in creating fuel for the dAlh2Orean involves combining waste aluminum with a sodium hydroxide catalyst. The reaction produces hydrogen, which is passed through a vinegar and water filter to remove hydroxides. It then goes through a silica gel filter, to remove moisture and boost its performance. Finally it goes into a fuel cell, where it provides enough power to run the car for about 40 minutes, sending it to a top speed of 30 km/h (18.6 mph).

Prof. Xavier Saluena and Aleix Llovet with the dAlh2Orean
Prof. Xavier Saluena and Aleix Llovet with the dAlh2Orean

Llovet and Salueña state that their patented system produces no carbon dioxide, and that its other byproducts can be reused – aluminum hydroxide created in the aluminum-sodium hydroxide reaction can be converted into alumina (which can then be made into aluminum), while salt can be harvested from the vinegar-water filtration medium.

The two researchers are now looking into the feasibility of scaling the system up for use in real automobiles. Readers who simply like the idea of a hydrogen-powered r/c model car can already buy one, in the form of Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies' H-Racer 2.0, or Corgi's H2GO.

dAlH2Orean H2 R/C Car powered by Aluminium

18 comments
acorn
very ingenious..can,t wait for scale-up news of success.
Eletruk
Of course this totally ignores the huge amounts of energy required to refine aluminum. Approximately 1 kg of aluminum uses 15 kilowatt-hours of electricity. And that doesn\'t even include the amount of energy required to extract the aluminum from the ore. Using aluminum as an energy carrier is very very inefficient. Recycling aluminum is a far better use, since it requires 95% less energy to recycle aluminum than to mine and refine it. Yes, this is a fine science experiment, but I don\'t want to see it scaled up because it\'s very wasteful.
Robert Fox
Acorn, it said WASTE ALUMINUM. Are you going to argue that ALL aluminum is recycled? I think not.
ichidos3
@Eletruk - We're anxiously awaiting your better design! Not sure where you get the idea they plan to mine and refine aluminum from this... you do see the old can tabs right? Or you could also simply read the article before posting comments. This is a great idea, using RECYCLED aluminum to power a vehicle. Cool concept, clever name, looking forward to the cleaner future!
Sergius
Pure academic dilettantism. The future is the use of electricity directly.
Terotech
@Eletruk Do you know if there\'s anywhere online to read about the recycle process for aluminium please? Ian Colley.
Gregg Eshelman
What I think of when I read \"soda can rings\" are the plastic things which hold a 6-pack together. The opener tabs haven\'t been ring-shaped for 25~30 years, ever since the type which is made to stay with the can was invented.
John M
Why not use solar electricity to split Urea H4co to H & use this, spliting voltage is .39 volts. U also get double the amount of H. U can even pee into the cell & it works!!?. No recycling required. Cheers John M
katgod
Sodium Hydroxide is a catalyst? Sodium Hydroxide is a reactant, it is also known as Lye and caustic soda although not very dangerous it can burn your skin just like an acid. If you have waste zinc, i.e. old battery case then you can use Hydrochloric acid, Muriatic acid to do the same thing i.e. generate Hydrogen.
tobiasonp
while it\'s easy to criticize, I think it shows great talent! We need these kind of ideas to help us find new sources of energy. And, Mr. J. Bell did a great job on that video. Pehaps he\'ll move on to a major movie someday....